23,443 – Played IT by ear

Solving time : 6m45s – Seemed a little hard to get started, and then I had one of those experiences where partial answers and clues that wouldn’t yield meant a corner (NE) was filled with no useful checking letters leading on. But then this brief logjam cleared, and there were no real delays – just a few brief pauses mentally to confirm initial uncertainties (especially that GROUPER was a word). The NW corner where I finished had so many phrases that it just crumbled eventually.


1 COME OFF + I.T. – I think I’ve seen this before (though it may have been another phrase ending in IT, but annoyingly I couldn’t get anything but the IT at first. It might have shaved over a minute off the time if I had, so worth spending the 20 or 30 seconds anyway.
6 PUT UP, same when reversed – palindrome indicators are just total giveaways; the definition sense requires either PUT UP to be intransitive or LODGE to be intransitive, both of which are possible but unusual.
9 WENT FAR, 2 defs – I nearly filled in CAME FAR, before sheering away from copying checking C and M from the top row.
12 TEST MATCH, pun – The compiler is optimistic if he thinks that either “big game” or “strike a light” would be even considered misleading by most solvers, despite both having other meanings in Chambers.
14 HAG(gai)<- I couldn’t claim to know anything about Haggai other than its abbreviation.
17 DIS(h) + IN + TE(rm) + REST – Unwieldy ‘charade’ clue (oo, I dislike that name), but better than a ‘double’ definition of interest.
20 N in AT + I + PAST + O – Another clue with lots of pieces, but a much smoother surface; both 17 & this one I filled in and didn’t actually work out during my solving time. In fact ANTIPASTO was just guessed from “hors d’oeuvre” and a final O … once the checking works, it must be OK.
24 GROUPER, cryptic def – finally convinced myself that GROUPER probably was a fish, only to realise that once all the checking was in place, there was no serious competition for an answer
26 DAD + A +1ST – Much like “egg” = O in 20 and even “ninety” = XC in 22, “first” = IST is a familiar crossword convention that might not stand up to scrutiny, or at least would need some careful justification, but heigh-ho, I think they’re fun
27 AGNES, hidden rev – Lovely phrasing
28 PARTY + W + ALL – quite neat combining of clue elements (and “with” = W is always a slight surprise), but overall the meanings of PARTY are too similar for this to seem clever really.


1 C.O. + WED – Really quite pretty, but only in retrospect; this is a rare occasion when solving fast IS at the expense of really ‘getting’ a clue at the time.
2 GIN in MING – I love this word and its appearance here; Chambers bizarrely lists MINGIN’ as a separate acceptable alternative
4 ART in FORSTER’S – not sure if “English” is meant to help narrow down the writer (not much!), deceive by suggesting “English” = E, or most likely, confirm the solution once found
5 “TIZZ” – kudos to Peter B for inventing the convention of speech marks to denote homophones, which deserves to become accepted practice.
8 PUR(e) + CHASER – clever alcoholic clue combination
13 STAKE HOLDER, pun – A fascinating error in Chambers, which lists STAKEHOLDER PENSION under the wrong STAKE. Look it up, I’m definitely right.
14 “HYDE” + “RANGER” – it’s been done before, and doesn’t work for all accents, but it’s still a lovely homophone use
16 TREAT LADY, anag – I’m sure everyone reading this already knows that the LATTER-DAY Saints are the Mormons
19 I + CHIT in WA – nice to have “Washington state” spelled out – I know several people who deprecate that “state” can equal 50 US states or presumably those in other countries (though for some reason it’s normally RI or CAL, with occasional ME and NJ appearances!)
21 ”PEEPS” – a third homophone clue, an unusually high number

8 comments on “23,443 – Played IT by ear”

  1. It took me an agonising 6 and a half minutes to get TIS and SHOWIER. Also held up by (don’t laugh) putting NARIS initially instead of NATAL and hence being completely baffled by the clue to DADAIST. Almost as daft putting TEAR A HIDE instead of SHED A TEAR in yesterday’s Guardian after getting the constituent grid entries the wrong way round (you CAN laugh now).
    Fascinated to discover the true origin of STAKEHOLDER pension.
    1. Fear not FGBP. We shall not mock! It is comforting to read that such competent solvers are capable of doing silly things as well!

      For example. Today I wrote in WENT FOR at 9A for some reason (well it did fit!), but marked it as “unhappy – check later”. On completion of the puzzle I did review it and it probably took me another 20 seconds to realise what the correct answer was!

  2. Stakeholder pension: maybe this is a subtle Chambers joke about angry Victor Meldrew types wandering around with pointed sticks …. Had the same trouble with 1A, and also loved seeing MINGING in the same grid as PEPYS and other ‘highbrow’ stuff. Haggai: one of twelve “Minor Prophets” who have one OT book each (apparently in the Hebrew Bible they huddle together in a single book). Apart from Jonah, “book of the OT” is all you need for crossword purposes, and at least some church-goers would struggle to tell you any more.
  3. Hmm. Feels like a good day for me then! I did manage to get 1A on first read, and coupled with 6A as well, enabled me to clock 9:48 today. Does this demonstrate how beneficial it can be to crack the first across clues? I have a good marker now – any time less than 2M (twice Magoo’s) or 2PB (that’s Peter’s) means I have done well!

    I agree with Magoo about w=with. It doesn’t look right. It’s as if Chambers has made a boob like it did in a previous edition where “gr.” was given as an abbreviation for “grouse”! (why would you want to abbreviate grouse!?). This turned out to be a misprint for “gross”!

    1. I just checked it in the new 10th edition – they’ve corrected the mistake and put it under the right stake now.
    2. You’re not supposed to need Chambers for the Times puzzle. W=with is also in the Concise Oxford, though I can’t think of any real-life examples. My understanding on one-letter abbreviations in the Times puzzle is that there’s a fairly short list of permitted ones, which includes the ones listed in both COD and Collins, plus a few others thought to be easy enough.
  4. 15a Increases efficiency of transport routes on river = STREAMLINES
    19a No end to lively conflict = WAR(?) Having W*R from crossers and “conflict” as the definition then it was straightforward to have “biffed” (BIFD = bunged in from definition) this but I still don’t know what the wordplay is going on about? Is there a word WAR* that means lively?
    22a He was in prison many years – about 90 = EX-CON (where many years EON surrounds 90 in Roman XC)
    6d In concert, overture to Egmont is introductory piece = PROEM (an easily biffable answer from PROM and E but I had to look it up. New words are just one of the good reasons for attempting the Times X-Word).
    7d Lover crashed in (transit)* = TRISTAN.(Tristan and Isolde is an adulterous love story about a Cornish Knight Tristan and an Irish Princess Isolde made popular by the French and put to song and music by a couple of Germans – one more reason to stay in Europe?)
    18d Group’s miserable record = SET DOWN (or anything by the Leonard Cohen ensemble?)
    23d NeAt TrAiLs, every other one hidden in old province = NATAL. (Now Kwa-Zulu Natal – a bit more tricky to clue and fit in. The presence of N in the answer might lead you to spend some time flirting with NI – the main x-word province).

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